The Asean stage
While domestic concerns will always be a priority, at least for this week the government is focusing on issues and problems besetting the Asian region as it hosts the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Manila this week.
The summit is the culmination of all those meetings of mid-level to top-tier finance and trade officials that were held in Cebu and Bohol in the past year and several months ago.
One such meeting in Bohol had an unwelcome presence trying to creep in and victimize the foreign delegates, but thanks to the townsfolks’ vigilance and the intense military and police operations, the Abu Sayyaf bandits were run over. And they would now think twice before launching any foolhardy misadventure anywhere near Central Visayas.
The Asean summit is graced by top North American and European leaders who are considered close allies and partners of the Asean member nations along with China, whose buildup at the contested Spratly Islands will be a continuing source of concern and discussion within the weeklong event.
Just how committed US President Donald Trump is with his offer to mediate between the claimants of the Spratlys and China remains to be seen.
Though sentiment had yet to be gauged among the member nations, China may be wary about further US involvement in the dispute since its constant patrols are seen to provoke the speedy, massive buildup in the area in the first place.
It’s not just the Spratlys row that is in the spotlight. As host, President Rodrigo Duterte expects the guest leaders to be diplomatic about their stance on his administration’s war on drugs despite the climbing death toll and the still-unresolved extrajudicial killings.
There is still no word as of this writing on whether or not Trump and Duterte will dwell on this issue, though Mr. Duterte is confident that the US leader will be most diplomatic about it and turn, as the national media puts it, a blind eye to the relentless, ruthless campaign lest there be an awkward tension that develops that isn’t needed at this time.
What will likely spoil President Duterte’s day is the likelihood that some world leaders will raise the issue of human rights, though we hope the President will be at his best and most diplomatic behavior when responding to their queries.
At the most, there will be discussion about the illegal drug menace among Asean leaders and perhaps a lively debate or two on how the governments in this region will deal with it on their terms.
What is hoped now is for the Asean leaders and their allied partners to set aside whatever differences there are between them insofar as these two pressing issues are concerned — and there are lots more to be discussed — and present a united stand and commitment to resolve these problems in partnership with each other.
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